Notes Update

Back in April I wrote about how I used nvALT, Simplenote, and Evernote for my note taking needs. Since then, I have made some changes:

Plain Text

Anything that is suitable for plain text gets stored in nvALT/Simplenote rather than Evernote. For me, the speed and simplicity of plain text is important. I have notes with everything from lists, frequent flyer numbers, and keyboard shortcuts I commonly forget.

I have decided that the convenience of using just one app everywhere outweighs the speed of plain text notes. I now use Evernote for everything. For quick entry on OS X, the menu bar icon with a keyboard shortcut comes in handy. On iOS, I use Drafts to quickly capture text. Drafts then allows me to send the text to Evernote. I’ve even set up some custom actions that allow me to append text to certain notes.

Tags

As for tags, I use them in Evernote for ease of finding documents.

For simplicity I’ve done away with tags. With the excellent search and OCR capabilities of Evernote, I find that between the titles and content of all my notes/documents, I have no trouble finding what I need.

Offline Notebooks

I’ve found offline notebooks (Evernote Premium feature) incredibly useful with this change. I made my notebook for my quick notes (what I used to keep in plain text) offline so I have easy access to it on my iPhone if I don’t have an internet connection.

Fitness in Marriage

Coming up on ten months of marriage, I am still discovering new reasons why marriage is amazing. Soon after our wedding, my wife and I decided that we wanted to make an effort to eat better and become more fit. We both purchased FitBit Zip exercise trackers, started counting our calories with MyFitnessPal, and started exercising regularly.

Where does marriage come into play?

As a married couple, we are committed to being our best and always supporting each other. We are finding ways that we are complementary all the time, including with our push to become more fit. My wife is always the one to encourage healthy eating choices (I love my desserts, especially chocolate, a bit too much). I am the one that motivates us to get out the door and exercise. It is amazing to see how strengths in one partner can correct for weakness in the other.

How has it been going?

We’ve both been doing well, loosing weight gradually and keeping up with regular exercise. This past week our streak became derailed with some unhealthy eating choices and the inevitable weight gain. This morning, realizing we were unhappy with our recent performance, we discussed what we could do to get back on track.

With our success, we had started getting lax with counting calories. Underlying all diets is the basic idea that you loose weight when you eat less calories than you burn. Without a good idea of how many calories you ate and how many were expended during the day, it is easy to start moving back to your old habits. This was our main issue.

How are we going to fix it?

  • Be strict about counting calories again (MyFitnessPal for food and FitBit to track activity)

  • Make sure we eat a well-rounded diet (we signed up for a CSA for the summer)

  • Provide each other with support for eating well and exercising

  • Now that the weather is good, get outside more

With all these changes, we should hopefully be back on track soon!

Plain Text Notes and Evernote

As a follow-up to my Tools & Toys Guide to Research Implements, I will go into more detail about how I use plain text notes and Evernote.

Plain Text

I use nvALT and Simplenote for my plain text notes. nvALT runs on my desktop, stores my notes as plain text files in Dropbox, and syncs with Simplenote, my preferred iOS plain text solution. I have my nvALT hotkey set to ⌥ + Space, allowing quick access to my notes anywhere in OS X. On iOS, I keep Simplenote in the dock. While tagging is an option, search in both apps works well, so I don’t use any tags.

Anything that is suitable for plain text gets stored in nvALT/Simplenote rather than Evernote. For me, the speed and simplicity of plain text is important. I have notes with everything from lists, frequent flyer numbers, and keyboard shortcuts I commonly forget.

Evernote

My main use for Evernote is my “paperless file cabinet”. Storing PDF scans of any paper documents I need to keep in Evernote allows me to quickly search not only the name of the document, but the OCRed content as well, making it easy to find what I’m looking for.1 I also store magazine pages from my iPad, photos of handwritten notes2, MS Office/iWork documents I need for reference3, and archives of plain text notes I no longer need.

As for tags, I use them in Evernote for ease of finding documents. Since the default date for a note is the date of last modification, I want to be able to search through my paperless file cabinet by the date on the document. Rather than depending on OCR for that, I have a tag for each year and month. I use a few other tags to classify documents, but most of my organization comes from Notebooks and Stacks (groups of notebooks).

Note: If you have sensitive documents in Evernote that you don’t want stored and indexed in the cloud, you can create a local notebook. The downside to this is that you won’t have the ability to search within the document.4

Conclusion

Storing all my notes in the cloud gives me easy access to them from anywhere. If you are interested in learning more about Evernote and how to make it work the best way possible for you, I highly recommend reading Evernote Essentials. For nvALT, Macdrifter has some great tips.


  1. PDF OCR is only available if you have Evernote Premium. 
  2. Evernote OCR only recognizes handwriting in images. Image OCR is available to everyone. 
  3. Evernote recently added the ability to search within attached MS Office and iWork documents if you are a Premium subscriber. 
  4. If you decide this is a route you want to go but still want to have the search capability, PDFPen does a great job with OCR. If you save OCR to your PDF before you import it into Evernote, you can search the text of a document while still keeping it off the cloud. 

Running Unplugged

Last night I went for my second outdoor run of the year and I decided to leave my headphones at home. Being connected all day, it felt good to listen to my mind, body, and surroundings.

I could hear my feet hitting the pavement and my breating.

I could feel my heat beating.

My mind felt relaxed and I just let it wander.

I was able to take in the sounds of the city and of nature.

I am going to make running “unplugged” a habit.

Arq Backup and Amazon Glacier

After some issues with TimeMachine, I recently switched up my backups from TimeMachine/Crashplan+ to to CarbonCopyCloner/Arq Backup.

My choice to move to Arq Backup was fueled by the fact that while Crashplan+ Family Unlimited costs $149.99/year, Amazon offers storage on S3 for $0.130 per GB/month and on Glacier for $0.01 per GB/month. With the ~100 GB (inclusive of incremental backups) that I want backed up in the cloud, it will only cost me about $19.20/year (~95% of my data on Glacier) to store my backups with Amazon. Adding in the few dollars it will cost me in data transfer, PUT, and GET request charges from S3/Glacier, my yearly cost certainly won’t exceed $25-30. I justify storing most of my data in Glacier because I make regular backups of my home directory to my NAS using Carbon Copy Cloner. Every few months, I also make a full clone to an external drive. The data I backup to S3 is whatever I keep in Dropbox — any critical files and files I am currently working on.

What’s the catch? Amazon Glacier charges you a retrieval fee of $0.01/GB if you need to retrieve more than 5% of your average monthly storage, Also, if you delete data within 90 days of upload, you are charged a prorated $0.03/GB early deletion fee.

Within Arq, a great feature is the ability to limit your storage on S3 by either a monthly dollar or GB amount. When you hit your max, Arq automatically prunes the oldest incremental backups (leaving at least one for each backup folder). While many people complain about the lack of this feature for Glacier, it makes sense that it is not included due to the early deletion fee. After a great conversation on ADN, I learned that many were having trouble manually deleting their Arq Glacier backups. Since it looked like the feature was there, I decided to contact the developer to get the question answered.

Stefan responded:

If you remove a folder from Arq that’s being backed up to Glacier, Arq puts the folder in its “trash”.
If you then open Arq’s trash, select that folder, and click “Delete Permanently”, Arq will delete all the Glacier archives and attempt to delete the Glacier vault. The vault delete will fail because Amazon has to update its “inventory”, which it does once/day. The next day, browse under “Other Backup Sets” in Arq, find that vault, select it and click “Delete” to delete it.

It seems that the confusion stems from the fact that Amazon only inventories Glacier vaults once a day. Once you delete the backup folder from Arq, it gets disconnected from your Arq set and once the inventory is updated (sometime within the next day), you can then delete the backup on Glacier.